Too many young people are neither in employment nor in education or training. The biggest risk for them is to drift away from society, into social exclusion and poverty. A lack of skills, and of the right skills, is still one of the most important factors in unemployment. A response is needed urgently.
This European Year has been a milestone in efforts to support the development of active ageing policy and initiatives. I am impressed by the commitment and innovative ideas of organisations, companies and individuals across Europe, who have increased older people's opportunities to keep working and participate in the economy and society.
I presented to the Council the 2013 Annual Growth Survey, the Joint Employment Report and the Alert Mechanism Report, all of which were adopted by the Commission on 28th November. I underlined that employment and social policies are key priorities of this year's AGS because of their crucial role in pursuing growth-friendly fiscal consolidation and in tackling the consequences of the crisis.
If the European Union is to come out of the crisis stronger, more cohesive and more competitive, we need to tackle the social situation and the long-term challenges too. And we need to do that by focusing on structural reform and social investment.
7.5 million young Europeans between 15 and 24 are not employed, not in education and not in training. More than one in five young Europeans on the labour market cannot find a job; in Greece and Spain it is one in two. And in the last four years, the overall employment rates for young people fell three times as much as for adults.
The Year has given us a fresh perspective on the ageing of the population. Once we saw the growing numbers of older people as a problem. Today we have started to recognise them as part of the solution — if they can achieve their potential and we can take advantage of it.